How You Benefit From Being Obese


The psychotherapist from TLC's 'Big Medicine' shares what she's learned about food addiction.

The recent statistics from the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) has reported that about one-third (33.8%) of U.S. adults are obese. That number rises every day, and keeping up with it is more difficult than keeping up with your stocks.

I work with the finest bariatric surgeons in the U.S. They are dedicated to helping their patients lose weight in an effort to thwart diseases, and minimize current disease progression. I also run several 12-step food addiction groups in the city of Houston and online in many cities.


I talk to morbidly obese patients everyday. I teach them, counsel them, eat with them, and spend endless hours reading their journals. These patients have a story to tell, but we aren't listening and we continue asking the wrong questions. 5 Food Label Dealbreakers

To be sure, obesity is genetic and many times the social milieu of obese patients I work with is chaotic with issues of abuse, abandonment, shame, ridicule, and anger. The genetic role helps explain the body type — the way food may be processed, stored, and proportioned. It cannot explain what keeps the person from changing the behavior that contributes to obesity.

In my work, during step 4 of the 12-step addiction group, the group members begin making amends. They look at how their behavior got them where they are. They quit thinking about how they were abused, and begin to consider how they hurt/abused others. The step is painful, gut wrenching and overwhelming for all of these patients. It is also the step I ask them, "How do you benefit from being obese?"

At first they look at me as if I am crazy. After all, they are weight loss surgery patients, and have gone to extremes to lose weight. They laugh, shake their head, and then the room gets quiet. One of the bravest patients will say, "My obesity gives me an excuse. I am not held to the same standards as others; they don't expect it, because I am morbidly obese." Another will chime in, "My obesity keeps men away; I was sexually abused by my dad for 4 years of my life." 

A statistic that no one likes to talk about was once mentioned in Bariatric Times in 2007. As many as 20 to 40% of obese women have been sexually molested, harassed and/or perpetrated (they know it's higher than that but can't ascertain the exact amount). Yet another will talk about how her/his marriage is so distant that food has become their lover/best friend. They are lonely, and they eat to comfort that incredible sense of loss. How Compassion Facilitates Forgiveness

Another part of my job focuses on the group that failed the weight loss surgery. If you have never been morbidly obese, or gone through a weight loss surgery only to have the weight come back, you cannot understand the depth of failing these patients feel. They are cursed by their unresolved reasons for going back to food. They don't understand it, and often those who love them most don't either. A Gastric Bypass, Gastric Sleeve, Lap Band, or Duodenal Shift is never going to successfully keep weight off if the patient has no idea why they are eating, and experience a fear of stopping.

Article contributed by

Mary Jo Rapini


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Location: Houston, TX
Credentials: LPC
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